The Holistic Way To Healthy Hair
This article is courtesy of Animal Wellness Magazine. Think how good you feel after you’ve just washed your hair, and then imagine what it would be like to have hair all over your body, the way your dog or cat has. Now imagine not being able to wash or brush that hair for months on end. Not a pleasant thought, is it? It’s not surprising, then, that a large part of your animal companion’s health and happiness relies on how well you look after his coat and skin. Regular brushing and bathing are as important to his well being as they are to yours. Trouble is, many commercial shampoos and conditioners contain chemicals that dry out the hair and trigger skin problems in sensitive individuals. So what’s the solution?
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The answer is to take a more holistic approach to hair care. “Holistic groominginvolves using the most natural methods possible to groom the animal,” says Kim Green of Raining Cats & Dogs in Cobourg, Ontario. A professional groomer with over 15 years’ experience, Kim adds that holistic grooming takes the emotional as well as the physical well being of the animal into consideration. “I not only use natural products, but I also create a calm and relaxing environment for the dog or cat.”
The problem with many commercial shampoos is that they contain phosphates and sodium-based substances that can dry and irritate the skin. They also have harsh chemical strippers that remove all the natural oils from the animal’s coat. Silicone-based conditioners, meanwhile, leave behind a residue that interferes with the skin’s ability to breathe.
Products with a natural base, on the other hand, clean hair gently and safely without unpleasant side effects. They also have soothing properties that can help prevent or alleviate skin problems. Here’s a rundown of some of the ingredients to look for in a holistic shampoo or conditioner.
Citrus-based products are a good choice for dogs with bad skin or oily, smelly coats. “Shampoos containing orange peel oil are especially great,” says Kim. “The oil is an excellent de-greasing agent, and cuts through odor and grease without drying out the coat.” It’s also soothing and refreshing for the skin. One word of warning: orange oil products should not be used on cats as they can react negatively to it.
Oatmeal and aloe shampoos have superior moisturizing properties and are good for animals with dry coats or flaky skin. Because oatmeal is mildly abrasive, however, it should not be used on animals with severe skin problems.
Neem is good for animals with flea-bite dermatitis. Neem oil derives from a tropical evergreen native to India, and is a natural flea-repellent. “It not only kills fleas but leaves behind a fragrance they don’t like,” says Kim. “Tea tree oil is also great for this.”
Lavender and rosemary-scented shampoos and spritzers are excellent deodorizers and work well for dogs with odor problems. Lavender also has calming properties. “If an animal comes in for grooming and seems stressed, the first thing I’ll do is mist some lavender into the air and on its body,” says Kim.
It used to be difficult to find natural pet products, but they’re becoming more readily available. “Earthbath is excellent,” says Kim. “Their products are 100% natural, they clean really well and have a nice, deodorizing scent.” The San Francisco-based company distributes a range of shampoos, conditioners, spritzers and soaps to pet stores and groomers across the U.S. and Canada. “They have everything, from citronella and oatmeal/aloe shampoos to special products for animals with allergies or hypersensitive skin.” Kim also turns to Tropiclean, a company specializing in pet shampoos, conditioners and colognes made with tropical botanical extracts such as papaya, kiwi and neem. Another favourite is Groomer’s Edge, though Kim advises that their products are more readily available to groomers than to the public.
Holistic grooming involves more than shampooing, clipping and brushing. Also important is the animal’s emotional well being, both during and after the grooming session. Trained and certified in therapeutic touch, Kim uses her skills to calm and reassure four-footed clients that may feel a little stressed about being groomed. “You see the difference right away,” she says. “Their eyes soften, the dogs stop panting, and they relax. I also give massage while I’m bathing the animal. It’s very therapeutic.”
The attitude you take towards grooming plays a large role in whether or not your animal companion sees it as a trial or a pleasure. “I firmly believe that how the animal behaves when you’re bathing or brushing him depends a lot on how you’re feeling,” advises Kim. “If he seems upset, stop and talk to him and give him a rubdown. If you’re calm and not stressing, he’ll be fine.”
Whether you take your animal to a groomer or do it at home, a holistic approach will help ensure an enjoyable and health-enhancing experience for both you and your friend.
Holistic Hair Care At Home
Taking your dog or cat to a professional groomer is the best way to keep his coat and skin in peak condition, but there are things you do at home as well. Here are two important factors to keep in mind.
1) “Nearly 100% of the time, skin and hair problems are diet-related,” says Kim. “Feeding your animal the right food is the number one thing to do.” A raw diet is best, but if you’re not ready to go that route, buy a food that’s as natural as possible. Stay away from preservatives and artificial coloring. These chemical additives are secreted through the hair follicles and can cause skin problems and smelly coats.
2) Start a daily brushing regime, even with short-haired dogs and cats. Brushing has numerous benefits that encourage a healthier, shinier coat. It spreads the natural oils over the animal’s hair, keeps his circulation up and increases blood flow to the follicles. It also removes dead hair and dander, and helps prevent hairballs in cats. “Brushing is also a form of massage,” says Kim. “It makes the animal feel good.” When choosing a brush, pay a little extra to get a good quality product. A soft slicker brush is best. Stay away from brushes that have harsh steel ends that can cut and irritate the skin.